Representatives from NTEU La Trobe Branch have been lobbying the University throughout 2011 regarding member concerns about the academic Workload Management System. These concerns have intensified since the release of Faculty Workload Framework documents, and associated research hurdles, which severely undercut the time allowed to undertake essential tasks.
These documents do not align with the typical time allocations which were set out in the Workload Management System. The Union has repeatedly expressed concern about teaching intensification and lack of adequate time for staff to undertake research.
In December we wrote three formal letters about the issue and we only received a short, unsatisfactory reply deferring discussions until this year. It was not until the 8 March 2012 that a delegation from the NTEU La Trobe Branch Committee was able to meet with representatives from People and Culture and with key managers who are responsible for research performance: Professor Tim Brown (DVC Research), Mr Mark Clisby (Director, Research Services), and Professor Annette Street (Research Education Development Unit). We tabled a document which details many of our problems with the WMS, and which makes specific requests for information.
On 13 March 2012 we met with the Vice-Chancellor and once again outlined the undercutting of time allocations, and the lack of transparency and consultation regarding the template Faculty Workload Framework documents. We provided him with copies of all of our correspondence on the issue to date.
On 26 March 2012 we received a response from management which does not go anywhere near to addressing the serious concerns of our members regarding the implementation of the Workload Management System. Yet another sign of lack of transparency is the request (at item 3.) that we not provide members with copies of the draft Faculty Workload Framework documents until they are finalised. Ironically these documents were not attached to the letter and we have written back to say that the Union will not participate in restricting the flow of information to our members, noting that these particular documents should be open to consultation. We will notify members if/when we receive these documents.
While any new system will have teething problems we believe that the failure to fully consult with staff and finalise Workload Models for each academic area prior to implementing the WMS is causing significant difficulties.
It is the view of the Union that the WMS is being used principally as a performance tool and as a budget measure to reduce the amount of money spent on teaching and research staff. Unfortunately, the real casualty from this short sighted approach will be the research performance of the University. We believe that research performance would be best enhanced by ensuring that there is widespread participation in research activity rather than confining research opportunities to a select few staff members.
We urge you to read all of the correspondence on the matter which can be accessed on the NTEU La Trobe Branch website here.
Clearly the only way we are going to get our issues addressed is by running a campaign to improve the implementation of the WMS.
If you can help with a campaign or if you have feedback about any issues we have raised in our correspondence please email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Yours in unity,
Virginia Mansel Lees
Dr Jack Reynolds
Professor Rhonda Small
Dr Graeme Bryne
for the NTEU La Trobe Branch Committee